The weight of the Law -Part 2

by Julia Kuzeljevich

SALISBURY, N. B. -The following is the second part of a cautionary tale about the fate of one trucker who ran afoul of inspection officers in the Maritimes:

The Scales

The Salisbury West fixed scale facility was installed in the spring of 2005 and a period of soft enforcement followed in order that staff and industry be educated about the scale

The weigh in-motion device acts as a sorting tool that identifies vehicles that may be at or near regulated weights and dimensions, plus it identifies a randomly selected number of vehicles that are directed to report to the scale for inspection. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, all vehicles must report when directed to do so.

Should a driver be unsure of the directive, normally, he should err on the side of caution and report to the scale.

The scale was installed and maintained by IRD (International Road Dynamics) whose Canadian operations are headquartered in Saskatchewan.

According to IRD spokesperson Kirsten Bergan, there are nine WIM scales in operation in Canada for weight screening at enforcement stations. There are approximately another 50 sites throughout Canada, which use WIM sensors for planning and data collection purposes only. Another three or four installations are planned at new sites over the next two years.

Bergan told Truck News that the WIM Scales “are not used for enforcement, but only for screening trucks that are suspected of being overweight from those within weight and dimension regulations. When the WIM system identifies a truck as out of compliance, the truck is directed to pull onto a certified static scale for further weighing. A penalty citation can be issued with respect to the static scale weight reading, however, a citation cannot be issued based only on the WIM scale reading. A WIM screening (or pre-clearance) system allows for efficient movement of truck traffic and targets only those trucks which are suspected of being out of compliance. This type of system significantly reduces delays and line-ups at weigh stations and results in a more efficient operation.”

When the WIM scale system has been installed and calibrated, users are trained on the correct operation and use of the system.

As part of this process there is typically an “acceptance test” period during which the system is evaluated against specifications by the operations staff. During this period, any deficiencies (if any) are noted and resolved.

“IRD works closely with the client throughout the design, implementation, and acceptance test phases and is always open to feedback from the client, station operators, and truckers. Many of our product and system improvements have come from comments and feedback from cus- tomers and truckers,”added Bergan.

She said that systems are tested regularly to ensure they operate as expected. In rare circumstances, situations do occur whereby drivers may not be advised properly, but these are usually due to traffic variations and not a specific failure of the system.

Records for June 6-8 indicated no violations with regard to vehicles not reporting when directed to do so by WIM, said New Brunswick Department of Public Safety associate director Ed Peterson, in a report.

But under disclosure, trucker Robert Austin had obtained a list of corrective maintenance reports for the Salisbury scale, dating from January 2006 to January 2007 inclusive.

Among the list of maintenance problems noted to have occurred on occasion during this one-year time period were: calibration issues; the system needing rebooting because it was producing axle and GVW weights that were 30% too low, or weighing too heavy; default axle spacing readings inaccurate on many Class 2 vehicles, classing them as Class 5s, and telling them to report to static scales; trucks being called into the scales with “unequal axles detected” errors on them; and finally, several reports which mentioned that some signs were not illuminating for a few trucks when directed to by the system.

While IRD was at all times aware of these issues and liaised with Public Safety on corrective action, the scales were, nevertheless, and like any technical device operated by human beings, not always foolproof.

Austin was meant to be directed to the scales as part of a Road Check blitz.

Department of Public Safety Officer Peterson stated that during this blitz, the random percentage of vehicles being directed to report was adjusted in accordance with traffic volumes and that the system responded without incident each time a change in percentage was inputted.

Public Safety’s role

Following the incident of June 7 and Austin’s subsequent dismissal, Austin believed several things.

He believed that he would have more time and opportunity to explain his version of the events, and he believed that Public Safety had essentially ordered his dismissal.

He believed that they had the ultimate power, and that even the larger trucking companies would not mess with having any number of their fleet targeted and pulled over for checks.

“Once I mention government noone wants to get involved. I used to think that business ran government, I don’t think that anymore,”Austin told Truck News.

He could not immediately obtain employment insurance benefits, because of his particular situation and because trucking is a profession in demand.

Frustrated by the situation, Austin also did not immediately enter his plea to the charges brought against him by the province of New Brunswick.

This meant he was visited several times by officers in order that they obtain his plea and signature to the charges.

Austin also eventually hired Tom Barron, who ran a business investigating unlawful dismissals, Barron T Labour Relations, to look into his situation.

“I look at this issue from the perspective of an individual who was making $50,000 a year, and who finds himself pulled over for bypassing a system that had not been working well,” said Barron.

To find out how Robert Austin’s ordeal ends, see the August issue of Truck News.

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